North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Scofield, John Nichols (1816-1867)

Birthplace: Fishkill, New York, USA
  • New York
  • South Carolina
  • Davidson, North Carolina
  • Builder
NC Work Locations:
  • Davidson, Mecklenburg County
  • Mecklenburg
Building Types:
  • Educational
Styles & Forms:
  • Italianate;
  • Tuscan

Chambers Hall [Davidson]

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Chambers Hall [Davidson]


John Nichols Scofield (1816-1867) was a New York-born builder whose chief role in North Carolina was as supervisor of construction for the massive main building at Davidson College from designs by New York architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Only one section of the immense quadrangle designed by Davis was actually built. Scofield completed a portion which became known as Chambers Hall (1856-1860), with central portico and pavilion and long flanking wings, before the prospect of the Civil War stopped construction. That edifice burned in 1921, though its columns stood until 1929. Its successor (built 1924-1929 from designs by Tennessee architect Henry C. Hibbs) is called (New) Chambers Hall or Chambers Building.

Born in Fishkill, New York, Scofield married Sarah Clastrier in her native Charleston, South Carolina, in 1845. The couple soon moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where six of their children were born. When Scofield took the contract for Davidson College, the family moved to the college town and lived at a house called "Tammany Hall." In 1857, Scofield, who was associated with J. N. Robertson and Company and the Columbia Car Factory and Machine Works of Columbia, South Carolina, advertised for suppliers of stone, lime, 1.5 million bricks, etc., for the project. As work proceeded, Scofield consulted Davis regularly on specifics of design and construction, asking for working drawings for the cupola, requesting Davis to send window hardware from New York, and reporting on progress. In 1860, he was paid $19,000 "in full of Building Contract." In October, 1860, Scofield of Charlotte bid on another big college building, for Trinity College (predecessor of Duke University) in Randolph County. (Other bidders were W. B. Gordon of Hillsborough, John W. Cosby of Raleigh, and the successful low bidder, Jacob W. Holt of Warrenton.) The Trinity project remained unbuilt because of the prospect of war. With Civil War threatening, the Scofield family moved to Illinois late in 1860, where John Scofield died in 1867. His widow, Sarah, returned to Davidson, where she ran a boarding house—Woodrow Wilson was her most famous boarder—and their children became prominent in the community.

Authors: J. Marshall Bullock and Catherine W. Bishir.

Published 2009

Building List

Chambers Hall (Davidson, Mecklenburg County)

Mecklenburg Davidson


Variant Name(s):
  • Davidson College Main Building
Dates: 1856-1860
Location: Davidson, Mecklenburg County
Street Address: Davidson College, Davidson, NC
Status: No longer standing
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Edward T. Davis and John L. Sanders, A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina: The Works of Alexander Jackson Davis (2000).

Architect Alexander Jackson Davis drew plans for an immense quadrangle, of which only one section was completed. Several images of the proposed and constructed building appear in Edward T. Davis and John L. Sanders, A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina: The Works of Alexander Jackson Davis (2000), including a romantic bird's-eye view landscape centered on the envisioned quadrangle. Chambers Hall burned in 1921 and another large building was erected and given the name Chambers.

Chambers Hall

John Nichols Scofield's Work Locations


  • Mary D. Beaty, Davidson: A History of the Town from 1835 until 1937 (1979).
  • Charlotte Western Democrat, May 5, 1857.
  • Braxton Craven Papers, Duke University Archives, Durham, North Carolina.
  • Davidson College,
  • Edward T. Davis and John L. Sanders, A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina: The Works of Alexander Jackson Davis (2000).
  • Scofield Family Collection, Davidson College Archives, Davidson, North Carolina.
  • John N. Scofield to A. J. Davis, 1858-1859, Davis Letter Books, XVIII, Alexander Jackson Davis Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York.

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